Safe Walk to School or Phone?

Mom worries about using
phones and earbuds when kids walk to school.

This is a logo for safe routes to school in Marin County, Ca.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: A Mom question- do you think it’s safe for an 11 year old that walks to school to have a phone? There are several big streets to cross, and I worry that he will be looking at his phone instead of the road. My son says everyone has a phone and most of the kids do walk to school in our neighborhood. D.D., Tiburon

Dear D.D.: A couple of thoughts on the question you pose. First, congratulations on living in a neighborhood where children can walk to school. Many schools, including the one in your town, have Safe Routes to School programs and you can get more involved with their training. Two communities I know of, Honolulu, Hi. and Montclair, Ca. have banned pedestrians from using phones and earbuds when crossing intersections, but it is not clear that there is much enforcement.

That said, don’t over-worry. Talk over the safety issues with your son and make a ‘compact’ with him to follow the advice from Safe Routes to School. Personally, I would threaten to take the phone away if you find he uses it while crossing streets. Explain that he needs to focus for the full time.

There is a lot of confusion around phones and pedestrian safety. On the one hand, the percent of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has soared from 12% to 16% between 2008 and 2018. During the same time period phone ownership surged, and car safety improved. However, this could be a spurious correlation. Seventy five percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. It is also known that 32% or more of the ped fatalities are alcohol related. As in distracted driving, it’s hard to get the ‘real’ rate when phones (or marijuana/drugs) are involved.

You are right to question whether kids, phones, and walking mix well. One obvious point is to make safety and phones an everyday lesson, and make it a new discussion point with the November 3 switch to Daylight Savings Time.

Simple Phones..Busy Life

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Do you think it’s a good idea to get a second phone, like a retro model that just does text and calls? I just heard about this and it intrigued me as a way to cut back my time online. TC, Tiburon

Dear TC: There was an extended story in the Wall St. Journal on minimalist phones. The idea is that you can be less distracted and more focused with a smaller gadget. Some time ago, I suggested provisional phones for pre-teens, a similar idea. Some of the new stripped down phones cost more than $300. – nothing basic there! However, you could opt for an old-fashioned clamshell model that costs under $50. Before you do this, take an inventory of the apps you ‘Must Have.’ For me, that’s GPS, plus Uber and Lyft. I could download music to a different device, and carry a pocket flashlight, but I leave modern society without GPS and Rideshare.

A Contest or a Con?

It’s ironical that we are using our phones to read about a contest that challenges us to give up our phones. If you win, it sounds like you can use a flip-phone during the one year hiatus, so you will not be in total abstinence.

Here’s the “why” we are running this contest from Vitaminwater. Note: they are owned by Coca-Cola, and it sounds like a savvy marketing ploy you can drink up!

“Did you know 1 out of 2 people say they couldn’t live without their smartphone? yikes. break the cycle with scroll-free life solutions™ by vitaminwater. how do I enter? it’s simple! share on twitter or instagram what you’d do instead of scrolling with hashtags #nophoneforayear and #contest. go scroll-free for a year, prove it, and you could win $100k. live the life you’ve always dreamed and more. (check out our rules. lie detector test included.)”

 The good news…. no purchase is necessary to participate!